I bought the Ares II DAC recently, and I've had a chance to listen to it for a whopping 24 hrs now. It's beautifully warm, smooth, full-bodied, balanced, and musical. I'm a drummer, so that's the isntrument I listen to most closely on recordings to gauge a component's realism, and with the Ares II percussion sounds dynamic, full, present--drums have body and snap, and cymbals sound melodic but appropriately metallic. The DAC's entire presentation is very satisfying: the bass is rich but proportional, and guitars have a clear and textured sound that moves through its own space. Separation in general is clear and consistent, and instruments stay in their lane, but never so much that you feel like you're listening to separate tracks at once.
The Ares II is often described as analog sounding, and for me it was meant to be a bit of a vinyl replacement purchase. I knew it wouldn't actually be that, but that was the idea, so I've spent a bit of time comparing it to the Sumiko Olympia.
Predictably, the Ares II is noticeably brighter than the Olympia (I say predictably because Sumiko MM carts are warm by design). DAC separation is clearer than the phono cart, and the Ares II has a somewhat more airy quality overall: there is more discernible air not just between instruments but also between details, especially in higher frequencies. Conversely, the Olympia blends the frequencies more than the Ares II, which I think gives the cart a more flowing presentation.
Because of my preference for that slightly organic/imperfect sound (I think super high resolution makes more sense in the control room than the listening room), I run the Ares II with the NOS/no filter settings. I can see how this can sound wooly if someone is into high resolution …